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Quebec government opens the door for euthanasia of children



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The debate on euthanasia is now going before the Attorney-General for Canada. The Quebec Human Rights Commission is recommending that children and other vulnerable people have access to euthanasia. Québec’s controversial bill on euthanasia DOES NOT limit its reach to the terminally ill. The Coalition of Physicians implores citizens to get informed and involved and is presenting an official complaint and request for intervention before the Attorney-General for Canada. If the bill is adopted, in addition to opening the door to offering euthanasia as an option for those not in the terminal phase of an illness, the door will be wide open to euthanize children, according to Québec’s Human Rights Commission. The Quebec Human Rights Commission presented its legal Brief regarding Bill 52 on September 20, 2013 to the Commission de la santé et des services sociaux of the National Assembly of Québec, which Brief was duly adopted by formal resolution,, and recommends rendering accessible euthanasia to children: « La Commission invite donc le législateur à ouvrir la possibilité de recourir à l’aidemédicale à mourir aux personnes mineures, moyennant le développement de mécanismes de consentement appropriés (page 22) -». It also recommends rendering accessible euthanasia to persons who are not apt to consent: «La Commission invite donc le législateur à ouvrir la possibilité de recourir à l’aide médicale à mourir aux personnes inaptes à consentir aux soins, moyennant le développement de mécanismes de consentement appropriés (page 28) –».

The Quebec Human Rights Commission is Quebec’s only administrative body having the authority to issue a legal opinion on laws pertaining to citizens’ rights and to make appropriate recommendations to the government. In its legal opinion of September 2013, it sets the framework for challenging the proposed euthanasia law which presently limits access to euthanasia to those who are 18 years and older and apt to give consent. According to the Commission’s opinion, Bill 52 could be deemed discriminatory against children, as well as persons who are inapt to provide consent and persons who are not resident of Québec.

At the press conference the Coalition lawyer, Mtre Dominique Talarico, presented the official complaint that is being submitted as well as the legal arguments in defense of the children. Children and persons who are inapt to consent are vulnerable people and their charter rights should be protected by our society, not obfuscated. For purposes of this conference, however the attention is on children. In their case, according to the Commission’s opinion, a 14 year old teenager could petition the Court and seek to be euthanized upon the same conditions as those stipulated in Bill 52, which is to say without parental permission, by invoking that Bill 52 discriminates against that child.

This signifies that Québec will soon be going along the same slippery road as the Netherlands, whose laws now allow euthanasia for children, and Belgium,where the draft law was adopted by one the two legislative chambers and is in the process of being adoptedby the other. This could include children below the age of 14 years as well as infants, as well as children 14 years or over who may be considered as emancipated. In fact, the Human Rights Commission recommends that Bill 52 allow euthanasia for children and persons who are inapt to consent.The Coalition is asking the Attorney-General for Canada to intervene in this file and is filing an official complaint and request for intervention which is presented at the press conference. The Human Rights Commission is proposing to extend euthanasia to children and other vulnerable people and this law must be declared unconstitutional—it makes no sense that the Human Rights Commission recommends that younger children and inapt persons be allowed to be euthanized, and if this draft legislation is adopted, it must be declared to be unconstitutional – it makes no sense that the Human Rights Commission recommend that children and persons who are not apt to consent to care may be euthanized. The Government and the Human Rights Commission should be protecting these people and ensuring their safety and the right to life, and not suggest or allow they be euthanized. They are in fact acting contrary to the spirit and essence of charter rights. This is a systemic impeachment of human life which must be prevented. It is also reverse thinking, devoid of reason, and will have devastating consequences.

Dr. Richard Haber, pediatrician and associate professor at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, published « Pediatric euthanasia: Let’s not go Dutch » (October 2010) describing three groups of children who may be candidates for euthanasia according to the Groningen protocol in effect in the Netherlands. 1. Infants with ”no chance of survival”, (eg. hypoplastic heart or lung with or without underdeveloped kidney); 2. Infants with a “poor prognosis”; and, 3. Infants with a “hopeless prognosis”.

According to Dr. Haber, the definition of “poor quality of life” is very subjective. It is clear that for people with disabilities the interpretation of “poor quality of life” is quite different from the perspective of those who have no disability.

Infants with spina bifida could be euthanized because of “poor prognosis and poor quality of life.” The authors of the Groningen Protocol for the euthanization of infants and children justified their protocol because of the illegal euthanization of 22 infants with spina bifida. They felt that euthanization of infants and children should be made legal to prevent this type of illegal activity. However, according to Dr. Haber, spina bifida may be corrected by surgery and this disability may respond to treatment. In his practice, he treated a child, now of school age, whose spina bifida had been corrected and despite residual disabilities, leads a happy life and attends regular school. Dr. Haber has followed several children and adolescents with trisomy 21 who, despite their handicaps, have brought much joy to their families and friends. Some of them enjoy an exceptional quality of life. Dr. Haber believes that questioning the value of life of certain individuals provides the framework for doctors to put disabled children to death. He notes that Quebec already has one of the highest rates of teenage suicides in world. What message are we giving our children if Bill 52 is passed? That you do not have to kill yourself? The doctors will do it for you if you find that your life is too difficult to live?

Dr Charles Rohlicek is a pediatric cardiologist who is often faced with newborns and infants with life threatening cardiac malformations. He believes that euthanasia has no place in the practice of modern cardiology. He is the physician who continues to oversee the care of Jessica who was born 4 years ago with a serious cardiac condition requiring a series of life saving interventions without which she would have died hours or days after being born. Would she not have been a candidate for euthanasia if Quebec had succeeded in passing a euthanasia law a few years ago? Jessica could have been a lost life but is instead the joy of her parents and older brother and sister.

Dr. Sylvia Baribeau, a family physician who treats children and is a mother of young adult children, questions the basis for this proposed legislation. “Is this the future we want to give our children who are faced with illness or health challenges in the future—the right to be euthanized? What would you tell the grieving mother of her 14 year old daughter who was euthanized unbeknownst to her family according to criteria set out by the Human Rights Commission and the Quebec government? That the protocol was followed and that it was her daughter’s right to be killed by a doctor because that is the law? How would you feel if your children were euthanized without you knowing? Where are we going? Don’t we have more care and compassion than that?”

According to Dr. Paul Saba, a family physician and President of the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice, “the Quebec bill on euthanasia has very loose criteria which are even looser than the original laws adopted in the Netherlands and Belgium in 2002. The time for “end of life” is not defined. Is it 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months, or 20 years? Who can predict accurately the duration of one’s life and the time of death? Now we have the legal opinion of the Quebec Human Rights Commission that is proposing that euthanasia be extended to children. Is this what parents, brothers, sisters, families really want? How would feel if your younger brother or sister who are of minor age were euthanized?

Our government is supposed to protect the children. This is not the type of medical care that doctors want to provide.
Charter rights are there to protect the vulnerable, and this is why Quebec’s euthanasia law needs to be challenged constitutionally since it does not embrace that principle.”

SOURCE Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice